A couple of days ago I watched the first episode of ‘Toradora’, I’d heard about how it was this fantastic rom-com that everybody loved, yet I could barely get through the episode. To be honest, I was shocked at how easily ‘Tora’ was able to physically assault ‘Dora’ – their first meeting is when ‘Dora’ bumps into her, and in response she literally K.O.’s him. It got me thinking about how normal hitting or punching others, in everyday life anime, is portrayed. I’m not talking about shows like Fairy Tail or One Piece where the name of the game is to fight – I want to discuss anime that show characters in relatively normal situations.
So in supposedly ‘everyday’ life anime, we’ve seen characters being punched, slapped and thrown into walls. Before you go and say “Oh it’s just slapstick humour – it’s just a joke!” Let’s look at the effects of this normalising violence on audiences. In the U.S. there was a massive court case regarding violence in video games. In this court case, the Gruel brief (2010) was presented, which was a collective statement by 13 authors, and was agreed by 102 signees (all from Academic and scholarly backgrounds such as Psychology). This brief essentially stated that violence in video games (and other authors have found this extends to all kinds of media) leads to imitation, physiological arousal (that is being physically prepared to fight) and emotional desensitisation. Interactions with violent media ultimately increased later aggressive behaviour in children and adolescents.
So in anime series, where violence towards others is seen as an everyday occurrence and used as a comedic device – shouldn’t this be considered a problem? One thing I have noticed is that a lot of the violence is usually committed between female friends, or a female towards a male – and this is what I’ll focus on.
From my personal experience, I remember having 2 friends in High School (A and B) who both watched ‘everyday’ anime. One morning, before class, I was sitting with A. B walked up to us, and was angry at A because A had not waited for her at the bus stop. B slapped A very hard, and when A started crying, B walked away. After calming A down, I walked after B and confronted her about it – B said that she didn’t see the problem with hitting A, since it had happened in the anime they had watched together and they had laughed at it when they watched it – so she though A would find it funny if B did it to her.
I’d also seen another group of girls in my school, none of them had a Japanese background, but one girl in particularly would imitate an anime character she liked. Whenever her friend did something she didn’t like, she’d yell out “BAKA!” and slap her across the head. Obviously these individual’s have out grown this behaviour (at least I hope they have) but there’s no doubt that they were influenced by the media they consumed.
The other main problem is the violence where a girl will attack a guy. In our society there is a strong culture of masculinity – this culture prevents male victims from coming forward when they have been assaulted or abused by women. Stories of male victims of rape are filled with disgusting comments that minimalise and make fun of the trauma male victims experienced. I’m not saying that’s what anime does, what I’m arguing is that by showing a male being hurt at the hands of a female it promotes and encourages this culture. No one person being hurt by another person should be seen as humorous or belittled.
Essentially the comedic portrayal of violence in everyday anime normalises violence towards others. It promotes behaviour through imitation and adds to a culture that is not sensitive to male victims. Ultimately, I would like to see violence in anime treated to show the impacts of hurting others – it’d be great to see characters call out the violent behaviour of others and show it’s not ok to use others as a punching bag.
So what do you think? Have you noticed something similar? Or do you think it’s harmless fun? Let me know down in the comments – always keen for a friendly discussion 😀
I’m thinking of keeping up discussion posts once a month – if you’re interested in my previous one you can find it here, it’s on what factors influence the way someone will connect with a Shōjo character.
Till next time.
Pollard-Sacks, Deana and Bushman, Brad J. and Anderson, Craig A., Do Violent Video Games Harm Children? Comparing the Scientific Amicus Curiae ‘Experts’ in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association (May 31, 2011). Northwestern University Law Review Colloquy, Vol. 106, p. 1, 2011. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1856116